Average Child R.I.P - hgunn.uk


          The political ideal of equality of opportunity is fundamental to our civilised society, but we are not clones. We are all unique individuals. There is increasing evidence that our brains are as different, individual as our faces, both in terms of structure and content. Tedd Rose, Harvard has argued that there is no such thing as average.

        There was a time when all children were segregated at 11 years of age into receiving a grammar school or secondary school education. It was a life sentence. The grammar schools took around 30% of the school population. 

      Research into working memory illustrates that there is a seven-year spread in children's working memory at the age of seven. It trebles in size from the age of fIve to fourteen, but the spread increases as they grow older. Most children's working memory is around average.    


      Professor Sue Garthcole, Cambridge University brain institute contended working memory was the greatest predictor of children's learning success in maths, languages and science. Although children with low working memory can be bright, Michael Eysneck cognitive scientist refers to the correlation between working memory and intelligence at 0.6 as being high.


       Child geniuses have exceptional working memory capacity. Sadly there are children at the other end of the spectrum. Around two in every class. 

  Dyslexia, which relates to a range of conditions, causes working memory problems. The is a hereditary influence to condition and there is no simple solution to the problem. Not all children with working memory problems have dyslexia, which arises because of a lack of coordination phonological and visual centres of the brain. Each is in different hemispheres of the brain     


  The harsh reality is that learning, achieving a given level of attainment, fluency, will always be more difficult to achieve for certain children than others,  but even when they achieve it, they will still have lower working capacity to use.


        The Cokcroft Report 1982 into mathematical education contended that however much the quality of what is taught is improved, the spread in children's mathematical attainment will remain. Ashby and Plomin (2014)  geneticist, contends this applies to all learning.  Half the population will always be average.


    The whole ethos of schools remains in the academic grammar school concept that if children work hard at school they can reach the highest levels of achievement. Whilst it would be wrong to smother children's aspirations, as they grow older they will increasingly will become aware of their limitations. It is important for them to learn to appreciate their best is not necessarily be their friends best.


        There is an anxiety that children should achieve more at school. Quigley (2018) refers to the English Government transferring elements of A Level Geography down to G.C.S.E. level. What is less certain is what does the imposition of more rigorous subject content standards really create. Much of the curriculum in many subjects is revised before assessments and is quickly forgotten after it.


       The problem of assessments is when children get a 100% right, a Grade A, then it can be assumed they possess the competence the pass implies. If children obtain 50% or 25% of the marks, then there is the issue of which questions did they get right. Did they answer the most important ones? 


    When school examinations results are published they are expressed in percentage terms and only those children who reach the required Grade C standard are normally referred to. There is never reference for what children of lower learning potential achieve. Reading, for instance, is recognised as having the most powerful influence on social mobility. Schools who do well supporting their lower achieving children are rarely praised.


    The interesting thing about the Pisa international school comparisons is that there has never been an attempt to create county average in the United Kingdom. If it were applied to Welsh counties, for instance, then it would be predictable which counties would have the highest ranking and estimated average scores. Social deprivation is feature of school under performance throughout the world.

      The schools which achieve the highest academic attainment in Wales is predictable. Those schools achieving relatively high standards in a deprived catchment schools do not get mentioned. Enabling children to reach their full learning potential can have a huge influence on children future lives, however modest that may be. 

Plenary

        A recent Times Educational article written by Plomin suggests it may become possible to work out children future educational attainment through considering their genes. This is consistent with findings of working memory, which is a processing capacity, which indicates that the learning potential of children is genetically determined. 


  Children will inherit genes from their parents. Those with lower learning potential will be more inclined to have children of lower learning potential and have lower paid employment opportunities. They will not be as equipped to support their children's learning as more intelligent patents. This suggests there are no simple answers to issue of social mobility.


  There are too many children's education that amounts to failing to achieve. There is far too much grading in schools. There is a need to view children's attainment more generally than just a mark. There is a need as Christine Hinton, Harvard University neuro-scientist contended to identify what the learning priorities should be.

  There is a need to develop the curriculum from the bottom up, from what the least able are able to achieve, which the Cockcroft Report 1982, recommended for mathematical education.  It should be a base line that must be the 'red carded' focus for children of all learning potential to achieve.


  The evidence is around 50% of children learning potential is determined by gene. The boundaries between nature and early nurture are blurred.  The importance of children's very early cognitive growth is of vital importance in developing children's learning potential.